"Dedicated To The Winners & The Losers..." - Raekwon


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Lupe Fiasco - The Cool: Review


Every once in awhile, a rapper makes “the Leap.” “The Leap” being defined, of course, as the moment a rapper simply goes from “very good” to “great.” It happens very rarely but when it does happen it’s instantly recognizable and it’s truly an awe inspiring, beautiful thing. Some examples of rappers making “the leap” are Nas on “N.Y. State Of Mind”, Rakim on “Paid In Full”, Common on “Resurrection”, Eminem on “The Way I Am” and Ghostface on “Impossible.” Today, we have a new rapper who just made the mythical “leap” from merely “very good” status to “greatness” and his name is Lupe Fiasco. All hail the Best Rapper of the new generation.

Lupe’s new record, The Cool, is a dense and remarkable record. Other than maybe Graduation, nothing sounds anything like it this year. The post apocalypse pop funk of post-Graduation Chicago hip hop is full in effect on The Cool. The production on the record handled mostly by Soundtrakk and Lupe’s F&F weed carriers is full of synthetic strings, violins, off-beat samples, sweeping hooks and boom bap drum kicks, this album is the sister album to Kanye’s latest masterpiece. Its a better record as well. For one, Lupe is thrice the emcee than Kanye even wishes he could be. He employs a swift, nimble flow that darts around the beats and not only is technically flashy but is able to utilize dense and often difficult metaphors. It also a darker and more savage record than Graduation. The beats are darker, muddier and outside of the fantastic lead single, “Superstar”, there is nothing as joyous as “Stronger” and “Good Life” on the record. Lupe has much bigger fish to fry on this album.

Following the en vogue trend of hip hop concept albums, The Cool tells a loose story of “The Cool”, the undead hustler first introduced on Food & Liquor, as he navigates the world being lured into the temptations of the nefarious, “The Game” and “The Streets.” This concept allows Lupe wax poetic about a variety of social and personal ills. However, it’s a testament to Lupe’s talent that it doesn’t sound preachy, pandering, nor pretentious. Lupe is able to work in moments of sly comedic asides in an otherwise darker than dark rap record. Take for example the somewhat unjustly maligned early street single “Dumb It Down.” Outside the context of the album, the song appears somewhat annoyingly self-righteous and assholic with a shallow and obvious message of the evils of selling yourself out for radio but within the confines of the record, it appears to be the perfect counterfoil to the dark melodrama of the rest of the record. The chorus becomes defiant instead of self-righteous as he lets the genius of the rest of the record contrast the ignorant pleas of the the streets and white record labels to dumb down his music because it’s either not “what’s poppin’ in the streets” or “it’s shedding to much light.” It works so much better when it’s surrounded by the rest of the work.

As for the songs on the record themselves, there ain’t a weak song within the bunch which is pretty remarkable when you consider that even Kanye, Jay-Z and Little Brother had one or two weak songs on an otherwise fantastic albums. I personally really like “Paris, Toyko” which either proves that Lupe is absolutely full of shit when he says he’s not a fan of A Tribe Called Quest because the song is vintage Tribe or after the events of Fiascogate, Lupe was basically shamed into listening to Midnight Marauders because this song sounds exactly like “Electric Relaxation.” If you are gonna bite, bite from the best. “Little Weapon” is another highlight as it’s a powerful, epic anti-gun screed with haunting Gregorian-esque chanting and a dark satanic vibe. On other notes, “Hip Hop Saved My Life” tells the story of a Houston Mike Jones-clone rapper who falls to the temptation of “The Streets.”

I’m actually kind of mad at Lupe after listening to this record. The Cool has completely screwed up Part II of my Year End Wrap-Up that I was planning to release very soon as he messed up my rankings for the best albums and songs of the year. I haven’t had enough time with the record to determine if its better than that new Ghostface, UGK, or Little Brothers this year. My gut tells me this could be better than all of them but I need three or four more listens to be sure. Anyway, this record is triumph for Lupe as he reached the promised land of rappers. This might just go down as Lupe’s Midnight Marauders after all. Fuckin’ A.

33 comments:

Fahad said...

what are the 5 concept tracks?

DocZeus said...

Umm, The Coolest, Streets On Fire, The Die, Put You On The Game, and Fighters, I guess...?!

Fahad said...

streets on fire and fighters is wronge (fighters is like the outro)

one of em is hip hop saved my life for sure

tray said...

I thought this was downright awful, but then again I like Cam.

DocZeus said...

"I thought this was downright awful, but then again I like Cam."

I think Cam's entire life is a concept album - Lifestyles Of The Pink & Retarded.

Christopher said...

"B...it's Purple now, B. B!"

How did you feel about Food and Liqour?

DocZeus said...

"How did you feel about Food and Liqour?"

I thought it was slighty overrated but still a very strong release but I like new one alot more.

Passion of the Weiss said...

I completely agree with you. People are just disliking Lupe strictly on principle. Not like I blame them or anything. But still, this is a pretty special record.

Recruit Zero said...

hey, I'm a longitme reader of the site, its good shit, keep it up. Just wanted to say the The Cool/Graduation insight was one of the more insightful things i've read in an online review. Most of em just say the same shit, so it was a welcome change.

Recruit Zero said...

oh and speakin of the concept, Fighters isn't one, the 5th one is Hip Hop Saved My Life...the child in hip hop saved my life is referred to in The Coolest and Put You on Game...

Anonymous said...

Lupe's a great rapper but Blu from Blu and Exile is the best mc of this generation; no joke Below The Heavens is one of the best hip hop albums in a really long time.

DocZeus said...

Yeah, Below the Heavens is pretty great, too but I don't know if I would put Blu above Lupe. I find him slighty more generic than Lupe is but that's perhaps because I haven't spent enough time with Below the Heavens.

T.R.E.Y. said...

if this is a big aesthetic switchup from Food & Liquor, i may like it. i don't like his debut much at all outside of "I Gotcha," his flow and lyrics don't do much for me and the beats don't have any punch. i'd use Comm and Little Brother's new ones as counter-examples of laid-back rap that isn't boring. F&L's beats just kinda drift off to nowhere for me. Pharrell's beat on it is the exception and i think that's one of the only times Lupe really nails it with the flow.

but then, i didn't like Be and was all set to hate on FF after hearing "The People," "The Game" and "Southside," so a 180's always possible.

tray said...

Well, for once I agree with tr(e)y. The only good song on F&L was I Gotcha, for sure. (Of course, most Lupe fans hated it.) Unfortunately, pretty much the only song where Lupe didn't sound like a whiny emo backpacking bitch on this was Go Go Gadget Flow. He should have titled this shit "The Lame." At least he's consistent in his good song: album ratio.

As for Cam, I honestly can't see how anyone can find him retarded. He doesn't have any intelligent ideas, per se, but he says whatever he has to say pretty articulately.

Trey Stone said...

i forgot i'm changing back to my original name now. the T.R.E.Y.'s just too stuck in my mind from typing it so much i tells ya.

DocZeus said...

Trey/Tray-

So wait, wait, wait, wait...Are you telling me "I Gotcha", the song with the 5 buck throwaway Neptunes beat and Lupe rapping about how he smells like perfume is the ONLY song on F&L that you guys liked. You guys are wrong for that one.

I swear to god, Lupe is becoming more and more like his idol Nas with the weird, impassioned hatred he engenders in some people.

Jesus Shuttlesworth said...

he sounded like he was focused and having fun on "i gotcha," while on the rest of the album it seemed like he was forcing himself to push a certain message (that was really boring). c'mon now, "i think i like her, like a metaphor?" that's a simile. i will say "just might be OK" was good, but too many songs sounded so epic for no particular reason. he didn't have anything to say i hadn't really hear before.

i don't hate the guy, he's just not on my radar.

Dart Adams said...

I wholeheartedly agree.


One.

Trey Stone said...

JS pretty much summed it up. and c'mon now, Pharrell's beat on that is crack. the definition of simple but effective. Pharrell's been hit-and-miss ever since he ditched Hugo and started crediting himself as "The Neptunes" but they still got classics. still can't believe ya said "Give It 2 Me" wasn't that great. blasphemy!

and although my Jigga stannery prevents me from giving the full thumbs up to Nas (well, that and the fact that he has only about two albums i like much,) i will say dude is a much better rapper than Sir Lupin.

DocZeus said...

No, I said "Give It 2 Me" wasn't "that" great, it's great but its' certainly not great enough to warrant Jay's undying devotion to Pharell especially when he continues to give him garbage like "Anything." I'm just saying use some new producers. It's not like Pharell needs the work.

Jesus Shuttlesworth said...

"I'm just saying use some new producers."

like Scyience on "Hollywood"?

DocZeus said...

"like Scyience on "Hollywood"?"

Ha! No, not the guy who gave us "Hollywood"...

Trey Stone said...

even just "not that great," i dunno. it seems to me like one of those select classic party joints that people don't seem to get tired of. but maybe it's just my warped college tastes. it's definitely not the only hot beat the Neps have given him too.

the only thing about new producers at this point is i'm not sure who'd be viable choices that'd gel with Hov's sound. i mean, admittedly it'd be cool to hear him try his hand over a Mannie Fresh, Runners or Cool & Dre beat, but the fact that he set out with a specific vision for this one i think may've prevented him from branching out much, cuz it may've fucked up the cohesiveness. i'm not really aware of any up-and-coming producers he could recruit at this point a la Just and Kanye circa Dynasty/BP that'd be really effective. except for Polow, but he's not really "up-and-coming" anymore and i personally think he's hit-and-miss in any case.

i wanna hear him over Timbaland again though. even though Timbo's "Come and Get Me" is hot i was a little peeved that 50 and Yayo made the album and Hov didn't, since he's the rapper dude has the best chemistry with. the "Give It to Me" remix doesn't count

tray said...

Yeah, I Gotcha was my favorite song on that awful album. I liked the original Kick Push 2 but then he had to change the beat over sample clearance or whatever whatever. The beat was simple but it worked, and Lupe wasn't quacking about the demise of hip-hop and doing all that sophomoric condescending shit about how other rappers have swimming pools in their videos but not him, Minister Lupe of the Nation of Pedantic Wack Rappers. Not that the shit about cologne or whatever made much sense either, but at least he kept his schoolteacher personality in check for a few minutes.

Kwis said...

I think a better analogy for the hate Lupe engenders than Nas is Talib. They both have far too much confidence, are wildly pretentious (you're hilarious for saying Lupe pulls this album off while not sounding preachy or pretentious) and clearly are obsessed with obtaining that which they pretend to eschew (popularity, street cred). The only differences are Lupe is a better rapper and Talib has a decent ear for beats. Neither of them make me want to listen to them. Where is the Lupe from Failure and The Glory?

DocZeus said...

Kwis-

Honestly, I think Talib gets a bit more unwarranted hate than he deserves. I mean all things considered he seems like a decent guy. Much more likable than Kanye, Lupe, Nas or Mos. Granted, he's not the better rapper of any of them (Kanye, of course, is excluded) but I've never wanted to punch Talib in the face.

And I don't care what any of you say, The Cool is classic. Two years, you'll be singing a new tune. Fucitol.

Trey Stone said...

i was gonna say something about this originally, but the idea that Lupe is a better rapper than Kanye kinda gets a cringe from me whenever i read it from anyone. technique aside, i've heard nothing from Lupe that's anywhere near emotionally resonant or entertaining as so much of Kanye's stuff. and as much as people try and treat production and rapping like they're two separate components, boring beats mean boring songs and none of Lupe's no-names come anywhere near Kanye as a producer.

actually, dude might be just about the only thing i've agreed with shitty rap hypeman extraordinaire Bol in about forever. blame his post today for sparking some delayed Lupe hate, lol

DocZeus said...

"actually, dude might be just about the only thing i've agreed with shitty rap hypeman extraordinaire Bol in about forever. blame his post today for sparking some delayed Lupe hate, lol"

Much like Lupe, Bol is a genius that may not be truly understood in his time.

Anonymous said...

Lupe's flow is dead weak. To start, I can't stand his voice, his lyrics have no impact or soul, and his music in general is much more pop than hip hop. He sounds like shitty white rappers from Linkin Park, etc. What really pisses me off is that people even would suggest that his debut was a contender for best debut ever. I mean...do you even listen to hip hop?

A brief list of superior debuts:
Illmatic, Ready to Die, Reasonable Doubt, The Coming, The Infamous, Me Against the World, At The Speed of Life, The Chronic, Doggystyle, Black Star, 36 Chambers, Liquid Swords, People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, Paid In Full. I mean, the list goes on and on.

But he has that...G'G'G'G'G'Go-Go Gadget Flow!!! Woo-hoo!

Rap about some real shit and get back to me you jive muthafucka. I don't rep shit except know-it-alls. If I want conscious rap (which may be what you go for), give me Kweli, Mos Def, Dead Prez, and P.E.

Anonymous said...

"I don't rep shit except know-it-alls."

Haha, I meant to say "you" instead of "I", but that sure is a funny coincidence, since I'm trying to educate about Hip Hop.

DocZeus said...

"A brief list of superior debuts:
Illmatic, Ready to Die, Reasonable Doubt, The Coming, The Infamous, Me Against the World, At The Speed of Life, The Chronic, Doggystyle, Black Star, 36 Chambers, Liquid Swords, People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, Paid In Full. I mean, the list goes on and on."

Umm, where in that review did I suggest that Food & Liquor was better than any of those records, let alone the best debut of all-time? And for the record, Liquid Swords, Me Against The World, and The Infamous aren't debut records. GZA released an album called Words From A Genius before Wu-Tang was even formed, Mobb Deep's first record was Juvenile Hell, and Me Against The World is Tupac's third record.

Now as for preferring conscious rap...Umm, other than P.E. I'm not a big fan of any of those artists you mentioned. I like rap music. I don't care what you rap about as long as you do it well. That's been my credo since I was fifteen.

major6000@aol.com said...

I'm shocked people found I Gotcha to be the best track on F&L I actually resented that track because I had the ORIGINAL/*cough* bootleg *cough* version of F&L and it wasn't on there and I was like this sounds mad commercial but if you listen to it closely, you would be amazed, but anyways, I def don't think it was the best track, it just wasn't a bad track. Lupe doesn't "force" dark, it comes naturally for F&L the dark songs were the Food (sustinence for your ass), and the Liqour would be the happy tracks (The shit that keeps you in a drunken stupor and clouds your vision from the truth)that's my take. I forgot what I was trying to prove tho lol but anyways unlike what Jay-Z said about Nas "Just because you don't understand him, doesn't mean that he, nice, it just means you don't understand the bullshit that he writes" In this case I think that might be the opposite because ppl don't want to sit down and take his tracks to the lab, they deem em wack/forced/what have you, in the words of Jay-Z yet again "do you fools listen to music or do you just skim through it" remember that the next time you listen to F&L or even The Cool. In regards to the production, in the words of Curtis "50-Cent" Jackson (Yes I'm actually quoting him lol) "a ill flow with no beat, is incomplete" (that was from his mixtape days, pre singing and vitamin water lol) he's had some questionable beats and the beat from Pharell's 99cents marked down bin is one of them, but does it really matter tho? I personally feel that as long as you can ride the beat, you'll be aiight, and Mr. Jaco can definitely do that. Sorry to rant on, I'm bored at work lol.

"Peace and much love to ya" - need I qoute? lol

Melissa said...

I think Lupe is a talented rapper and even better lyricist, so zeus dude don't post shit about him just cause' all these peeps of lesser intelligence don't understand the lyrics.
I <3 ur blogg